Toby Young Resigns Over Deleted Sexist Tweets

Photo: Ken McKay/REX/Shutterstock
Update (9th January): Toby Young has resigned from his role on the board of the new universities watchdog. In an article for the Spectator, the right-wing journalist, whose offensive views sparked outrage last week, said the furore following his appointment had "become a distraction" from the Office for Students' "vital work". He admitted some of his previous comments "were either ill-judged or just plain wrong" and apologised.
After a petition against his appointment garnered more than 220,000 signatures, Young's resignation is a heartening reminder that, actually, resistance does sometimes work. Hurrah!
Original article (4th January): Many of us are ultra careful when posting our views online these days. Not only because we don't want to offend people, but because we know our current or future employers could hold our tweets, posts or captions against us. Rightly, many companies want to ensure that their staff don't harbour sexist, racist, homophobic or otherwise offensive and outdated views.
But the UK government seems not so concerned. On Monday, it announced the appointment of the ex-journalist, author and free-school advocate Toby Young to its new higher education watchdog, the Office for Students. A swift backlash followed, largely due to the emergence of thousands of flagrant tweets he had posted in the past.
The tweets, which have since been deleted – Young took down more than 50,000 of them on Wednesday alone – were described by Labour as "vile, sexist and homophobic" and raise serious questions over whether he is fit to represent students, particularly women and those who identify as LGBTQ.
Naturally, Young claimed the backlash against his appointment was politically motivated by the left, but anyone in their right mind would agree that his comments are suggestive of someone who is unfit for public office – with even some Conservatives reacting in horror to some of his past statements. Judge for yourself.
One of the many tweets which have been screengrabbed was posted during the 2009 Academy Awards. Young said a woman he believed to be Danny Boyle's wife had "huge knockers". Even worse than the crass, sexist language, though, was that the "woman" turned out to be Boyle's 17-year-old daughter.
He also tweeted about Claudia Winkleman's breasts, telling her to "put on some weight, girlie", as well as those of Padma Lakshmi, with whom he worked on a US reality TV cooking programme, and various other women. In reply to a tweet about Lakshmi, Young also made the horrendous, vomit-inducing claim that he had his "dick up her arse".
There are many more similar examples, which you can skim over in horror via this thread.
Young has also shared his troubling views on eugenics and working class people in various right-wing publications over the years. In an Australian publication in 2015, he said poorer people should be allowed to choose which embryos to implant based on intelligence. While in The Spectator in 2012, he decried the need for schools to be inclusive of people of colour, people in wheelchairs and people with special educational needs.
On Wednesday, foreign secretary Boris Johnson called the outcry over Young "ridiculous", claiming he was the "ideal man for the job". Boris is the brother of universities minister Jo Johnson, who appointed Young to the role and he was Young's former editor at The Spectator.
(Ironically, it was Young's father, Michael Young, who coined the term 'meritocracy' to describe a society in which those in power get there based on merit rather than wealth or class privilege. You couldn't make it up.)
Young defended his appointment in a lengthy Facebook post on Wednesday, claiming that while he regretted some of his "sophomoric and silly" comments (understatement of the century?), others had been "deliberately misinterpreted to try and paint [him] as a caricature of a heartless Tory toff".
He also appeared to deride people's concerns by describing his comments as "politically incorrect", rather than acknowledging and apologising for the offence he had caused. Tory MP Margot James tweeted that while she believed Young was "worthy of his appointment," the term "politically incorrect" was "frequently used to dismiss unacceptable comments about, and behaviour towards, women and minorities".
The Labour Party is now demanding that Theresa May reverse the appointment of Young, but the PM is yet to make any comment.
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